Monday, October 15, 2012

States and Nations 3.0: What is Cyberdemocracy?

As mentioned in the first States and Nations 3.0 post, we've gone from living in family bands, to tribes, multi-village chiefdoms, and then states. It's a progression seen in seen in branches of humanity who were isolated from one another for 10,000 years by the vagaries of ice-age land bridges between the New and Old Worlds, as well as in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. Those steps in increased social complexity are by-in-large linked to advances in technology. Family bands and tribes normally employed paleo- and neolithic hunter - gatherer tech packages. Chiefdoms were the product of early sedentary agriculture (with a few notable exceptions in resource heavy regions). Early states required relatively advanced packages of farming techniques, domesticated crops, and crafts in order to exist.

So if there are other forms of social organization beyond states in our future, what kind of technologies might bring them about?  Advances in brain augmentation and gene engineering that alter the nature of human thought hold exotic possibilities. But before getting into those a couple of articles from now, there are more quixotic technologies worth looking at on the near-term horizon. Technologies that are less radical, but which still hold transformative potentials. Information and computer science tech are on the lips of lots of near-future futurists these days, and their discussions often include the terms cyberdemocracy and e-democracy.

What are these forms of neo-populism?

Essentially there are three broad tiers that I've come across so far:
  • Electronic direct democracy
  • Expert system-assisted democracy
  • Social software engine driven democracy 
Direct electronic democracy is the simplest of the three. Essentially online voting systems would allow voters to decide each issue directly, doing away with the need for elected representative bodies. Expert system-assisted democracy consists of varying schemes to use AI systems to aide voters or politicians. One such design would replace elected representatives with randomly chosen citizens who serve limited terms of office, and who are assisted in their duties by AIs or dispassionate expert systems. An ideal setting for of this system is one in which the software is self-maintaining, self-evolving, and does not require maintenance from human engineers who might tamper with the systems. 

Social software engine democracy is a complex hybrid form. One in which citizens up vote or down vote issues and choices on software systems that are modeled on robust game engines, which have already established a track record for being able to operate in the face of advanced and repeated hacking attacks. These applications packages would include forms for discussion, and reputation systems with cumulative, peer-voted reliability ratings like those used on eBay or classic online forms like Slashdot. In other words, other citizens would vote the reputations of their peers up or down, one rating at a time, to help establish credibility. Such a system could also be used to choose and supply executive agents--operatives who solve problems and enforce agreed upon laws using just-in-time resources voted to them by fellow citizens who approve of their performance.   

Author Daniel Suarez uses an emergent social software engine democracy as the center piece of his bestselling novels Daemon and FreedomTM. In the books' present day setting, gamification techniques in the form reputation bonuses, Kickstarter-style funding, and social recognition are used to help encode participation in collective decision making into everyday online life. Encrypted digital currencies and augmented reality also figure prominently in weaving this social system into the physical space of daily life as well. 

Next up: E-democracy

No comments: